Growing up, my family lived in a neighborhood with a dozen of kids our age, and summer time, of course, was the best time of year. Every summer we picked a sport and we played from sun up till sun down every day. One year was street hockey, another football, then baseball and basketball the year after that.
Sports is such a great way to learn teamwork, self-discipline, leadership, and accountability. Whenever my brothers and I are together, we still drop everything and play something. We can make just about anything competitive. In fact, I remember when my wife and I were married in Jamaica, the three of us spent more time playing and throwing something around then we did with our wives on the beach.
So, when I found out, during Emily’s second pregnancy, that is was a boy I was overcome with images of what is to come. I couldn’t wait to play sports with Lennox and teach him about mechanics and the rules of the games.
Now that Lennox is three, we figured this would be a great time to get him into soccer and start his love for sports. Sometimes though, things don’t exactly go as planned.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and then a month later it pops in your head and you think, “well now that makes a lot of sense.” That happened this last week at Lennox’s soccer game.
Let’s take it back to that conversation first.
Early June I was in Iowa talking to an advisor named Jason. Jason has been in the business for a long time and it shows. He clearly understands the nuances and has embraced the new direction the retail industry is heading. We were talking about the millennial generation and how they’ve changed expectations about work from both the employee and the customer perspective. The conversation went something like this.
“You like music?” He asked
“Sure, who doesn’t” I replied
“Let me tell you something someone told me, that illustrates the evolution of our culture today” He went on to tell me the following:
Think about records. Going back to vinyl, back when music first came possible to purchase, you had to buy a vinyl record. So, if you wanted to listen to say, track four, you had to listen to tracks one through three first.
Then came eight tracks and cassettes. If you wanted to listen to track four, you could fast forward past one through three, but you still had to go through them.
Then came the compact disk. You could now just skip straight to track four, but you still had to purchase the album itself.
Lastly of course came the digital track. You could simply just purchase track four if you wanted, no need for the rest.
“What a great way to illustrate the evolution of our instant gratification-based culture” I said, “I am going to steal that one for sure” and we moved on with our conversation.
A month later, I find myself at Lennox’s fourth soccer game. So far, he has decided, when at home, he wants to play soccer. He gets excited to put on his little shin guards and blue socks. He calls them his “shields”.
His team, The Super Heroes, play every Saturday and all morning we talk about how he is not going to be scared and go out and kick the ball. We get to the location and he goes in excited, we walk up to the little indoor field, and like clockwork, he drops to the ground and refuses to go. We spend the next thirty minutes trying to calm him down to at least go on the field. So far, we have successfully gotten him to give high fives at the end of the game. He’s three, and it takes time.
This last week, I managed to at least get him to sit on the bench with me and not lay on the ground or cry. Sitting on the bench in order is him, playing with his Batman Lego he had to bring, then me, then another Dad and next to him the coach of the team. All the other kids were on the field playing.
I look at them both and asked, “Man, this is a real test of patience huh?”
“I can’t get Andrew to pass or not use his hands, driving me crazy!” the coach says.
“At least your kid kicks the ball, MJ just runs all over the field, not paying attention to anything” the Dad next to me chimes in.
I look at Lennox, then back at them, “at least your kids will go play! I don’t know what to do with him.”
We all kind of shrugged our shoulders and chuckled. I understand Lennox is only three. He is very young for sports, but it is very frustrating to watch him not play, and I must remind myself it is ok. It will take time for him to want to play.
I couldn’t help but think back to that conversation with Jason at the dealership. Is it so frustrating because I am expecting “track four” already? The beauty of the music analogy is that it shows two things. One is that we have created a culture of wanting to jump right to where want to be and not wait or work for it. The second, and I think more important, is that when we give ourselves the ability to just jump where we want to be, we lose sight of what got us there.
When you buy an album, you get all the music that was intended to go with it. You learn the context of the lyrics, the “story” if you will. We are losing that in our culture, when you lose sight of the bigger picture, you can’t comprehend the importance of the small details.
This is so true in sports, I can’t expect Lennox to just go play with the other kids, to be at track four like Andrew. First, he must step on the field, then maybe hit track two like MJ and run all around. Then as he progresses he will build the skills needed to really play well, to enjoy it.
I would argue this is true in all aspects of life, ask yourself, are you expecting something in your life a little too soon? Is it possible you may be missing out on steps in your life or career because you think you should be further than you are?
If you are a parent, a manager, or a leader, are you expecting growth and performance without the base to get them where they need to be? As things are getting easier to obtain, this is becoming a real test of patience.